Tuesday, 15 August 2017

$900 FB Pony Hop: Dealbreakers

Thank you, $900 Facebook Pony, for a topic that ties in nicely with yesterday's post about riding all the horses offered to me.

Her question:

Any dealbreakers that make you not even want to ride a particular kind of horse?

Shut your little ears, Midge. No ideas to get out of work here....none at all....

Yes! Rearing scares me. Not so much the -"I'm green and not sure where else to go" kind, but the kind that's learned and means business. Nope, no thanks, not getting on that.

Somewhere in this novel of a post from our last show, I mention helping out a rider on the XC field whose horse went over on her. What I'm not sure I conveyed well enough was the horse literally jumped up off the ground on her hind legs before slamming down on her back. Like when a person tries to do a backflip and doesn't quite pull it off. No idea if it was intentional, but it was fast and athletic and horsey didn't look overly concerned....so not something I'd ever be into riding.

Midge reared and fell on me once, I think last winter? She was being quite braced and fussy and running through my hand. I thought maybe incorporating some backing up might be useful. Midge thought maybe popping up a bit might be a good alternative, and...Midge being Midge, totally misjudged the footing/her athletic talents and kind of slipped and fell over on her side in slo mo. And, learned her lesson and never, ever thought about rearing again. I also learned mine, so if she's being really silly and tough, we just move into canter and incorporate some lateral work there to burn off steam and get her less heavy. 
Pic from around that time frame. Midge is often opinionated, but never mean. Sidenote: I see so much progress since then!

Another type of horse I'd never get on are the ones that are tricky and just beyond my abilities. There's one I know that I try to avoid even handling on the ground. He's very much into testing boundaries and will get very dangerous about it and really doesn't mind upping his game when you discipline him. I don't think he's inherently nasty, I think it all probably started as playful intelligent gelding games that scared someone and got him out of work.For whatever reason he now is who he is and I'm not interested in trying to play the game. He goes great for a couple of riders in the barn, but I've seen them have some pretty epic showdowns with him too, and yeah, the stuff he tries out is way above my abilities, not to mention could seriously hurt someone like me. 

Final category: Baby's first rides. Used to be OK with this, now if they're not mine I'm not going to. I like to know they've been productive members of equine society for at least a little while first.

And, in all honesty, I'm not very brave on new horses. Never have been. So, any time I'm on a horse that I don't know super well and they feel too fresh or like there's bit of a buck in there, I get off and lunge a bit. Obviously they don't fall into the 'never ride' category, but a 'don't ride sometimes' one for sure!

Monday, 14 August 2017


Is the spice of life and all that.

But, when we consider it in the context of riding and handling other horses, it not only keeps life interesting, it:

- Keeps me honest. Those bad habits Midge (somewhat) tolerates? Yeah, other horses are like "WTF are you doing with your outside seatbone?!"

- Keeps me sane. Although it would be a pretty spectacular event to see, thankfully all the horses in the barn don't tend to have a bad day at once. There's always one good apple to brighten my day!

-Helps me learn. Each horse is different, each requires a different ride. The ability to "read" each horse and feel the tiny changes needed to adapt to and bring out the best in each is a big goal, but a worthy one, I think.

-Gives me confidence. Getting a bit outside my comfort zone on a new horse is good for me!

-Helps me narrow down my own personal preferences a bit more. Although it's a bit of a running joke in the barn that I love every horse I get on, some are definitely more 'my type' than others.

-Makes me appreciate Midge. It's getting to the point where we're very tuned into each other - all the hours spent have built up a pretty solid partnership - it's cool to feel those results.

Like here - we did some gymnastics the other night and Midge totally aced the angled one stride with the super narrow line. She also, somehow, consistently made it ever so slightly bending between because..pony, and because the striding was working better for her. Smart, but also I had no doubt she'd be OK with this, even tho it was a first.
In short, if someone offers you you a riding opportunity and A: You have the time, and B: The horse is unlikely to kill you, just go do it!

Friday, 11 August 2017

Lesson Recap

I had to reschedule my lesson this week, and unfortunately that means I missed out on a jumping lesson and was there for a dressage one...again.  Between prepping for the dessage show, and our super smoky weather, I havent jumped at all in a while. I noticed my jump saddle still had my day pass from our xc schooling that was on July 22nd, so yeah, I better make some jump schooling a priority soon since I'm going away to an event next week!
They made a neat poster this year.

At any rate, our lesson was still a good one, and tied in nicely with the discussion Jen at Cob Jockey started about how reliant (or not) we all are on our trainers.

In the 2 years I've been riding with EC, she has always been very hands on and eagle eyed, giving me stream of consciousness feedback and directing me for the vast majority of the lesson. Lately, though, there's been a real shift in that.

It started gradually in our lessons leading up to the dressage show, but I really noticed it at the show, where before the classes where she normally warms us up she was like "You've got this. Don't underestimate yourself,  you know what you need to do." And after " That was well done, are you happy? Did it feel good to you?" Since I'm notoriously bad about having show nerves and being my own worst critic, I chalked that up as an effort on her part to sort of let me be and give me confidence, plus, she was incredibly busy riding and teaching and being a mom so I wasn't really expecting anything anyway.

Tonight, though was more of the same. She started out by outlining what she'd like to see me to accomplish in the lesson and the things she felt I could work on with Midge.

In relation to yesterday's post, all three of these pairs of breeches are labelled the exact same size. And yet...

Then, she sent me off with a "go get started, feel where she's at tonight,  and just do what you feel you need to" Ummm...OK?

So, off I went, creating the Midge I wanted in walk, where it's easiest. Then adding in some trot transitions, insisting she stay in the same round and forward mindset. I added in some suppling exercises to get her softer in the poll, and then some transitions within the trot...collect, move out again, now do that in a shoulder in position to get her hind end more active, etc, etc. Back down to walk and added in some walk pirouettes to remind her about keeping her shoulders up.  I kind of got lost in my own little world, and failed to notice the trainer feedback was...fairly non existent.

Until she was like, "There, that's enough. That's exactly what you want, now let's see if you can create that same feeling in the canter" "OK", I thought, "here comes the lesson!" And, yes, there were a few more tips and tricks shared since the left lead canter is still a bit difficult to really get her round and sitting. But generally, overall, the vibe was more "hanging out with a helpful, more experienced riding buddy" than "you are in a lesson and must do as I say". I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it, to be honest, it's a pretty big shift from when we were getting direction every second of the ride. The negative part of me wonders if she's just given up up me...this was honestly my main thought at the start of the ride because it was rough...Midge wasn't pleased about working in the heat.
"it's too warm for riding, right?!"

But then, it turned into the best ride ever. Midge became forward and really pushing, and we got a few really nice medium trot transitions and some really lovely moments in canter where she was coming forward and back just off my seat...big progress for headstrong, unbalanced ponies!  I'm pretty familiar with the program at this point, so maybe the silence was just because there really wasn't much to add. Also, EC is nothing if not professional and good at her job. So....IDK, the jury's out. I'm pleased that I do, indeed have all the tools and judgement to meet current lesson goals fairly independently. But it felt weird to be focusing more and relying more on myself rather than the outside input I'm now so used to.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Show Gear: What Not To Wear Edition

(Not in keeping with this post at A Enter Spooking where she and TC look so gorgeous and professional - check it out if you actually wanted to see how to look good while dressagin' :)

I have zero excuses for my haphazard rated dressage show look...I had plenty of time to shop for appropriate items, I just never quite got around to it. I could have stayed in a hotel and showered like a normal person, instead I opted to camp and swim in the river, and generally be sweaty and filthy for 3 days straight, lol

My only (tiny) excuse is that the show organizers told me in the morning they were waiving jackets because it was too hot. Then, when I went to enter the ring, the steward was like "Um no, you need a jacket." So I had two minutes to ride over to my camping spot, (praying Midge would ground tie) and dig out my jacket and assemble myself in it, with the back number they also insisted we wear and get back in the ring before the bell. I made it, but it wasn't pretty, and a stock tie wasn't happening lol.

Um yes, that's my unbuttoned shirt collar hanging out. But, hey, I'm wearing a coat!
Breeches: Irideon Bellisima full seats. My other white breeches were stained, so I ordered these last minute, on a super (like $20 super) clearance sale. They were a size larger than I normally wear, but for $20 I was OK with that. And...they arrived 3 days prior to the show and were really, really big...like 2-3 sizes big. I have no idea who designs and sizes their breeches, but they are generous, to say the least. And, the disappointment continued because they literally fell apart over the course of one day. The full seat material just sort of disintegrated and is now pretty much see through where it contacts the saddle. Also, baggy breeches = blisters. Ughhh. So, back to the old stained and grubby breeches it was.

Show Shirts: This was my one success. I have a couple of Asmar shirts I bought on sale last year. they somehow were breathable, repelled dirt, and actually fit decently.

Stock tie: Just a plain old Shires brand one. I hate stuff around my neck and I'm not a huge fan of frills and bling so really I'm not a real dressage rider  I'm OK with my current tie.

Show Jacket: This was embarrassingly bad. We were going to go shopping earlier in the week so I could try stuff on in person, but then, as mentioned, the show organizers were like "it's forecasted record breaking temperatures, so jackets will be waived for the weekend "And I was like "Yay, saved myself money and time, now I don't need to shop and can wait for a sale!" I packed my ancient black wool hunt coat just in case the weather forecast was wrong...and discovered upon my frantic journey back to the campsite to put it on for the first time in years that it's way too small. Like, teenage me small. Should have just brought my tried and true navy blue one (or stuck with eventing, lol).

Boots: Adequate. They're Mountain Horse field boots, and on the older side, but they're comfy and clean up well. When they die, I'll get a pair of dressage boots.

Saddle: County Competitor. Presentable, but is starting to need a reflocking and definitely due for an adjustment. I hate it for me, but Midge approves, so we're good. It's going in for an overhaul this fall, fingers crossed she can tweak things to make me happier too.

Girth: Another fail. That beautiful Schockemohle girth I bought over the winter is now borderline too large for a dieting Midge, plus somehow the keepers on both sides managed to come unstitched over the weekend. It's seen a lot of use over the last 6 months, but yeah, not pleased about it needing repairs already.

Saddle pad: I ended up using an all purpose white pad with a sqare-ish cut, because I have yet to find a nice dressage pad that is 14.2hh cob size...the big horse stuff is huge on her and the pony stuff too short for an adult saddle.
Why no, that's not an all purpose pad, this is dressage! ;)

Bridle: Standard Bobby's dressage bridle. Cleans up nice, and is basic, but good enough quality.

On the plus side, I'm living proof that you can show at a rated show with super budget, unflattering wardrobe, and non fancy tack and your scores will still be exactly the same. I wouldn't recommend it though, because seriously, you'll feel so much better if you're comfortable and know you look the part. I'm starting with shopping for a nicely fitting coat and breeches as we speak, no more procrastinating!

Side note, Kitty Customs is a real problem in our house. My parcels might get delivered, but they are inspected and defended by BK for undetermined amounts of time. The struggle for show gear is neverending, guys.
G sent me these pics this morning. Yay, hopefully boxes containing new show clothes!

Ok, yeah, that's fine, nevermind,  I don't need to open the box or try those clothes on. What could possibly go wrong?;)

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Blog Hop: Change

 I'm contemplating some change in this corner of the blogosphere. I know what I want and where I want to be equestrian goals wise, but the part between here and there is a little hazy.

So, for our very first blog hop, I'm shamelessly hoping you'll share your life experience so those of us struggling with similar decisions can learn from your mistakes and be inspired by your successes.

Look! I even made a special picture ;)

My question(s) to you:

Have you at some point moved on to a different horse, trainer, stable, etc with the purpose of advancing your progress? What made you realize the time was right for a change? Or did you opt to adjust your goals in order to stay with what you know is working? How did either choice work out in the long run?

My reason for asking is that I'm contemplating purchase or lease of either a talented/willing/forgiving prospect or (more likely) a been there/done that horse/pony to move up on and learn with. I'm still going to keep on keepin' on with Midge, because she's fun, but I'm wanting to progress a little quicker in my own riding and experience levels. Midge is happy enough doing all the things, and is even showing some good potential for dressage...but honestly she's just not that into it and being consistently inconsistent on whether the pony shows up to work with a good attitude is a thing I'm finding a bit harder to accept as time goes on. It also makes for uber slow progress. We ARE making progress, for sure, as our 'bad days' at our most recent show didn't result in overly bad scores (BUT we also did move down a level, so...). If you can't guess I'm conflicted about 'giving up' and putting some focus elsewhere because I do still believe we'll get there...but the time frame is a bit of an issue and I feel kind of stuck in a rut. Also, it's not fair to the pony to try to force it and make dressage the sole focus when she's happier doing a bit of everything.

The plan is to breed her in the spring of 2018. I'm regretting not doing it this year, but on the flip side I'm also glad we've had another year of showing and fun under our belts without any other distractions or commitments! Obviously Midge is here for life, too, so no worries about any of that changing....she's definitely my pony of a lifetime and means the world to me.

I'm very, very lucky to have an excellent coach, so that part of the equation won't be changing!

(You might be wondering "but what about Ginger?" Ginger is fabulous and awesome too, but honestly, dressage wise we have the opposite issue as B - she is more than willing, but physically not as gifted. Jumping wise she's super cute and would definitely be a nice move up for me, but I'm trusting EC's opinion here that unless my heart is set on Ginger, there is a more suitable prospect for me that would be a better longer term fit, particularly as my big goals are more dressage oriented. Ginger is a super intermediate mount for the kids moving up, they love her, and she's happy. I won't mess with that by bringing my baggage into the equation. I'm not ruling out selling her to the perfect home, but for now she's got a lease girl who adores her and I'm happy)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Canada Cup Dressage: Photos and Final Thoughts

As a short recap, I:

-Survived being potential bear food
-Lived like a homeless person successfully
-Competed at a 'real' dressage show and survived
-Met all sorts of lovely people
-Nearly collided with an Olympian and her horse on my pony.
-Nailed the braids by day 3
-Did not panic when things got weird
-Took pony swimming!
-Even won ribbons and prizes!

Yep, posting this pic again. I'm still so excited about them!
Show photos! I tried to pick photos that show how things "felt". There were better moments and many worse ones too, that these, but these felt the most representative of the weekend :)

Final Thoughts:

-Schooling show (and eventing dressage) marks. Is it just me, or are they wildly different than 'real' shows?  I get that they're trying to be encouraging and eventing dressage is I guess it's own thing,  but myself, I'd prefer consistency between it all. My tests this weekend felt fairly marked, and I was happy with them. But, I'd be happier if I had a benchmark from last year to compare them to. I don't, because honestly, I feel like the previous shows we've done to date were comparatively way generous in their scoring.
This looks how the canter work generally felt. Midge was a bit tight in her top line,  and I was working really (too) hard.

-While I can't afford (and don't actually wish to) embrace the entire dressage queen lifestyle - dressage is my happy place. I love eventing, and won't be giving up my jumping lessons any day soon,  but watching even the intermediate eventing levels I'm like "Wow, cool, but no thanks...I'm good". Upper levels? I can't even anymore, just in case someone dies. Upper level dressage? I'm like "PLEASE, this is so cool, TEACH ME NOW I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO TRAIN MY HORSE THOSE THINGS IMMEDIATELY thank you!"

-Midge was a superstar, but IDK, I don't think this is her happy place. Just because she could theoretically do this at higher levels, doesn't mean she wants to, or even should. Our scores got progressively lower as the weekend went on, and she was actually a bit sticky at the ring gate, which has never happened before. You should have seen her perk up when I took her out on the XC field after and the look of complete bliss when the kids at the swimming spot were loving on her. Not so in our tests, she just sort of went out and did the thing, businesslike and sort of 'meh'. This is going to be a long thought process, and an emotional one too. My heart wants to do this thing with Midge as far as we can take it...but perhaps that's selfish of me. Looking around this past weekend, the 'real' dressage horses out there weren't just talented, they LOVED their jobs, and many were excited to show off on the same level the event horses get out on XC.
"Where are the jumps?!"
"OK fine, we dressage now."

-Whatever the future holds, I'm proud of the pony for all she did this weekend. I feel very lucky to have a pony I can take to all these shows and events, allowing me to participate in those worlds. Most of all though, I appreciate that she's sensible and kind and such a good partner in crime. I think the horse or pony that can go out there and do a little bit of everything, maybe not always well, but well enough to have fun with, is a highly underrated thing. This one's worth her weight in gold, as far as I'm concerned.

Please Midge, would it kill you to stop bracing? And yet, she's so cute :)

Saturday, 5 August 2017


I was a bit disappointed in the dressage show photos (can't blame the photographer - I rode at the same time as the GP tests, so I imagine it would be hard to cover both well...also honestly most of my dislike was how I look in the pics, which is not her fault at all!), but have ordered a few 'fun' ones to share...just waiting for them to come and then I'll post a final show update. We're prepping now for our event coming up in 2 weeks. I am actually excited about it (and pre ordered photos this time, lol)

In other, related, news, Midge is still on her diet, in hopes being lighter will equal being faster at our events! At a recent visit, the vet was unimpressed with the rate of weight loss, although pleased with her fitness. So Midge has now been living in her own diet 'condo' 24/7 instead of just overnight. She is eating only a small amount of hay double netted twice daily.

The other day, I went to the barn to ride, and thought "Ughh, she looks like she's GAINED weight today. How is that even possible? Must talk to the girls feeding."

And then, I noticed her gate was tied shut with a large, thick, rope instead of the normal thinner rope attached to a clip. Inconvenient, but hey, whatever works.

So, the story as I understand it? She CHEWED THROUGH the previous rope latching the gate, then set herself free in the main paddock. Then she went all hangry, booted the other horses away from their breakfasts, and stuffed herself all morning before EC noticed. I found proof in the form of a chewed up rope somewhat near the crime scene. Also, an empty haynet in her pen. The little beastie ate her own breakfast first before making her big escape, of course. Naughty, naughty, pony.
Dramatic reenactment of the great escape.